Slowly but steadily, Yash took Riya’s bloodied hand and put it on his broad shoulders. Her hand was completely bruised and splinters of glass pierced her thin, soft hand. Her long and beautiful fingers got crushed by the heavy boulders of the hotel’s roof which had crushed many cars. She could barely keep her eyes open; her eyelids got heavy and started teetering up and down due to the exhaustion. She couldn’t walk; her legs hurt after having run continuously for hours to keep herself safe from the big chunks of metal and concrete falling down. Both of them stepped outside to be cornered by the press and the media with irritating questions. Yash dodged them with patience and gently jostled out from the crowd. He found an ambulance and took Riya there.
“Gently”, he said. His voice quivered when he said it. The nurse placed Riya on the stretcher and pushed it inside. Riya laid on it while the nurse cleaned her hands with aspirin and body cleanser. Then, arrived the hardest part. Riya shrieked in pain and cried heavily when the nurse pulled out the pieces of glass lodged in her hand. Yash found his vision getting foggier and tears dripping down from his eyes. Love hurt. He read it somewhere. If it meant looking at the woman he loved in such a helpless state, he was ready to fight anything to keep her safe. He clenched his shaking fists. He rubbed the tears away and held her hand tighter. A doctor arrived on scene and injected her with a sedative so that she could sleep properly. The nurse bandaged her whole hand while Riya slept. “No need to worry. She’ll be all right by the morrow”, said the doctor, smiling. Yash was not in a great state either; his body had become weak and fragile due to the sudden chain of incidents which had taken place that night. “Had I only chosen a better place”, he whispered so that no one can hear. He raised his head to see the building, no, a pile of metal and concrete with smoke jutting out from the cracks of the elements which fell to the earth. He glared at the sight with anger and despair and walked towards it.
18 Hours Earlier…
“Yeah. Okay. Wear your favorite dress and be ready by 6 in the evening. We’re going somewhere tomorrow!” said Yash happily over the phone.
” Where? Where? Do tell..” she asked eagerly.
” Patience my darling. I’ve been waiting for this day right from the first day we fell in love. You’ll have to be patient. Trust me, it’s worth the wait”, he said.
” Nope means nope”, he said teasing her.
” Okay!” said Riya.
” Now kiss me good bye ” she said like a small girl. She always did that. She loved him like a dog who unconditionally loves his owner.
” Muaahhh!!!” he kissed the microphone.
” Bye! I love you!” she said.
Yash cut the phone call. He went to his study table and sat in the chair. He rummaged through the books on his table and opened the Theory of Thermodynamics. “Ufff!!!” he guffawed and opened the page he had bookmarked earlier. Five minutes into the chapter, he couldn’t take it anymore. His brain slowly shifted from formulae of devised thermodynamics to the days when he had enjoyed with Riya to the fullest.
Yash and Riya had met accidentally; both of them had got the same roll number. They went to complain but no one had listened to them. They had met days after days to sort out the problem. Nothing had really happened. Instead, their bonding had increased and both of them grew closer. One fine day, he proposed to her and she accepted him wholeheartedly. They went on to become one of the famous couples in their college. They sat together, roamed together, had lunch together, quarrelled together. Though they were from different branches, they never felt that distance between both of them.
People called them the “quirky couple.” Three years had passed on and they were still going strong. They didn’t ignore their studies either. Yash had topped the three consecutive years while Riya was one of the good grade-pointers in her branch. In the final year, Yash got a lucrative internship offer with an attractive stipend. He completed the internship and grabbed a placement in the same company. The next day, he wanted to take Riya somewhere with his own money. He was very proud of it.
Yash opened the door of his wardrobe and gently scoured through the shirts hung on to the hangers by touching them slightly. He picked a grey shirt and navy blue trousers. Then, he took a bath, wore his outfit and went to the car, opened the door, sat inside and started it.
“One minute!!” she shouted from the balcony of her house when she heard Yash honking. After a couple of minutes, she opened the car door, sat inside and pecked his lips. “Okay!” he said enthusiastically and hit the accelerator. The car zoomed away ripping the air.
There was a big line of cars waiting outside the hotel. Riya, curious, tried peeping outside from the window beside the driver’s seat. But, she ended up swelling her nose. When their turn came, they both got down and Yash handed the keys to the driver. The man at the entrance opened the big glass door for the couple to go inside. Then she read the name of the hotel. Over the plush velvet board the name was embedded in silver letters. “The Westin”, it said. A silent smile crept up on Riya’s lips. “My favorite hotel!” she screamed silently. “How did you?!” She grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight. “How’s it?” he asked knowingly “Awesome!” she replied by kissing him on the cheek. “Now let’s make it better!” he said grabbing Riya gently by the waist. The receptionist showed them a table where they could sit comfortably. The waiter walked them to the table. He drew the chairs out one at a time for both of them to sit.
The table was made with premium teak wood and was varnished regularly by the staff to retain its beauty. An elegant white cloth was spread covering the whole surface of the table. Two Chinese porcelain plates and glasses were placed on the either sides of the table. A small bonsai plant was placed at the center of the table. It looked simple, but beautiful. He waved his hand and a waiter came forth taking out his pen and notes. Yash ordered Riya’s favorite dish and made some custom changes to it. The waiter closed his notepad and told them that it would take fifteen minutes and went away. He looked at Riya. In her crimson red jeggings and loose white shirt, she looked stunning. She left her hair loose they way he always liked it.
“You’re beautiful” he said. Her cheeks turned red when he said that.
“Mister, don’t try and flirt with me. I already have a boyfriend”, she teased him.
“Well, tell your boyfriend he’s lucky to have a partner like you.”
“Oh! Why don’t you tell him yourself?” she said placing her hand on his. Exactly fifteen minutes later, the waiter brought the hot, sizzling food and served it, while another waiter filled their glasses with water.
Few men from the corner had been watching both of them for a while. When Yash got angry, Riya patted his shoulder. He calmed down and resumed eating. The water in their glasses slowly started making ripples. Subsequently, those ripples became too heavy for the glass to sustain and the glass fell on the well carpeted floor shattering into pieces. Yash thought it was his fault. When he raised his hand to call the waiter, the whole floor started shaking. The plates and all other objects clattered to the floor making plenty of noise. People started rising up from their chairs and started moving. The exit door got jammed leaving people in panic. Before Yash could try and figure out what was happening, a big slab of the concrete roof fell to the floor claiming lives. Before people could regain their senses , big chunks of metal and concrete fell onto the ground. Everyone shrieked in horror.
Yash was thrown onto the floor. He sat there gaping at his surroundings. He saw a woman holding her baby in her fat arms. An old couple sheltered themselves under a table. A middle aged man was weeping by staring at his wife’s body. “What am I doing?” he yelled inside his mind. Suddenly, the impulsive nerves of his brain flashed a name in front of his eyes. “RIYYAAA!” he yelled.
Adrenaline rushed through every cell of his body. He jumped up and started searching. He searched erratically; he threw away the tables, kicked the chairs. Finally, he found her at the corner of the room with her head buried into her knees, sobbing. He went to her and took her into his arms. “It’s okay, okay, I’ve come. We can survive this”, he assured her by pushing some of the strands of her hair to the behind her ear.
Someone dragged Yash by the arm and threw him away. His head hit hard to one of the pillars and his vision became blurry. Five people were trying to snatch Riya’s chain from her neck. Yash stood up, ran and kicked one of the men in the stomach. He fell to the ground spitting blood. The other one to the left lunged at him with a knife. Yash escaped it by a hair strand’s width and caught his attacker’s hand and buried the knife into the chest of the goon. The other one attacked because he had to; he got his right arm and jaw broken. Confused, the other two attacked at the same time. Yash bent over his knees and pierced the knife into the thigh of one of the men. He crumbled on to the floor. Witnessing their mob’s failure, the other one ran away.
“These are the people who were watching us” he said kicking one of them.
After some time, the rumbling stopped. But the damage had already been done. Ceilings had fallen to the ground. The glass panes of the windows were broken. Some of them pierced Riya’s hands. The beautiful paintings which had been hung on the walls were now remnants of a disaster. The whole place of peace and serenity had turned into a pile of broken wooden pieces and specks of metal and concrete remains. The lighter dust particles escaped from the scraped wood were heavy in the air. The slow, rhythmic movement of these particles was disturbed by the incoming rays of the sun. Everything came to a halt. It seemed as if a ship trapped at sea during a storm and somehow reached a shore in the morning.
Yash sat in the front seat of the ambulance and Riya lied down at the back. Her parents had been informed that she was having a sleepover at her friend’s house. Yash didn’t sleep the whole night. He barely even blinked. It was not the crash that bothered him, but the mobsters who had tried to kill her. “Why did they attack her?” he asked himself this question a thousand times. He clenched his fists and banged the dashboard many times.
“Yashh….” he heard a feeble voice. He quickly turned back to see that Riya was awake. He opened the door and went back. She tried to move her hand. She couldn’t. “I’m weak. My hand” she looked at her hand. It was totally wrapped up with bandages from the shoulder till the fingers. She started crying. Yash hugged her tightly. He turned his head back. He saw a guy. He was roaming near the place where the building had crashed. He looked different. Yash had seen those raw, cruel, bloodthirsty eyes elsewhere. Then, it struck him. It was the fifth guy who ran away. Riya went back to sleep. He gently placed her hand back on the bed.
Yash waited for that guy to look at him. He waited like a wolf which waits to pounce on its prey. Slowly, his eyes met Yash’s. Yash stepped forward. He stepped back. Yash gradually increased the speed and started to run. That man was in shock but he recovered. He threw a small rock at Yash and started running. Yash ran after him. They crossed the line of ambulances which are there to tend to the hurt. Then, they arrived at the crash site. Yash was running fast. The man was stumbling a bit.
Finally, Yash grabbed the collar of his shirt and threw him across a narrow street. He squealed in pain. He crawled to a corner. He sat there crying and cursing Yash. Yash lowered himself and said “I paid you guys to steal the clutch which has a pen-drive. That was what I needed. Now, not only the wallet is gone but you idiots also hurt her. I told your employer to not hurt her. But he’s long gone for the sins he had committed. What about you?”
The man was completely baffled. He gaped in surprise and shock.
Yash unsheathed the clinical knife which was in his side pocket. He took it before chasing the man.
” You hurt my love. You know what I’ll do when someone hurts my love?” he asked piercing the knife into the man’s heart. Slowly, the blood started dripping onto the floor. The clean stainless steel of the knife was now completely covered in blood.
” I’ll kill them.” He said softly twisting the knife further. Now, the blood started spurting out from his heart.
The man started spitting out blood from his mouth.
He choked on his breath and later fell down and closed his eyes.
“NEVER HURT MY LOVE!” he shouted. He lifted the body with his bare hands and threw it into a dumpster and walked away staring at it.
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